The police department in New York City is searching for five women who they believe are linked to con artists. These con artists have preyed on elderly Asian women in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan these past few months. According to local authorities, the women tricked these victims into handing over thousands of dollars by telling them their money was “cursed.”
Scammers have used this trick, commonly known as the “Cursed Money Scam,” in one form or another for years. New York Daily News reports that it’s successfully scammed about five women of Asian descent in their fifties and sixties out of almost $470,000 in those three New York areas. It’s a complex scam that involves three people playing on one unknowing victim.
How The Scam Works:
First, the first of three scammers approach the victim. It begins with what seems to be an innocent and friendly conversation in the victims’ language. Eventually, they introduce the topic of healers and psychics once they’ve gotten friendly together. Then the second scammer coincidentally approaches the conversing women, pretending to have overheard their conversation.
They commence agreeing with the first scammer’s statement. They usually add that they know the healer/psychic and have received help personally from them. Once they hook the victim, they persuade them to pay a visit to the specified psychic. Once there, the fraudulent psychic lies to them and tells them they have a curse on them.
They say that something dangerous will happen to them or their family unless the victim pays for a blessing ritual. They tell the victim they must put their money and jewelry into a bag to banish this curse. The victim must then give the bag to the ‘healer’ so they can perform a ritual blessing on it. Before returning the pouch to the victim, the fraudulent psychic replaces the valuables with water bottles.
Who Are Some Of Their Past Victims?
In April of this year, one 55-year-old victim fell for the scam and handed the con artists $280,000 in cash plus jewelry outside of a restaurant. A week after, the scammers conned a 61-year-old woman out of $130,000 in cash in Bath Beach. In May of this year, an elderly Asian woman met the healer in Queens, and they scammed her out of $20,000
In May this year, an elderly Asian woman met the healer in Queens and was scammed out of $20,000. Last month in Manhattan, they conned a 69-year-old woman out of cash and jewelry that added up to about $20,000. The latest known victim is a woman, 54, who got tricked into giving the fake psychic about $3,000 worth of jewelry and $19,000 in cash on June 22nd at Borough Park.
Why Older Asian Women Specifically?
Authorities believe the scammers are explicitly targeting Chinese senior citizens for the following reasons:
- Older Asian women are less likely to keep their money in banks, keeping it at home instead.
- They’re more likely to talk to someone who speaks the same language since they are less likely to speak English.
- They’re more likely to believe in superstition.
- Their culture makes them less likely to talk about what happened to them after being scammed out of shame.
- Due to their strong sense of family, they’re likelier to believe a psychic who tells them their family’s in danger.
The Cursed Money Scam developed in Hong Kong and China initially. However, it’s becoming more rampant in overseas Chinese communities and Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, and England Chinatowns. Police haven’t caught them yet, but they released photos of five Asian women for those who want to “assist with inquiries” about the case. If you or anyone you know has reliable information concerning these women, please call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS to assist the authorities.